The Difficult Decisions College Athletes Face in Light of the Corona Virus
“I think this will create a bottleneck for graduating high school seniors as well as current freshman, sophomores and juniors. There shouldn’t be a do-over because that is not how life works. It is always better for us to find a way to move on and learn to turn the page and be resilient.”
On March 13, 2020, the NCAA announced that this year’s college seniors playing in spring sports will have eligibility relief and can extend their college sports careers if they choose to do so due to the COVID-19 global pandemic cancellations. Student-athletes and coaches across the country have made positive comments about the decision. Harvard baseball player Kieran K. Shaw ’20 said he was “ecstatic” when he heard the news. (See “After Spring Season Canceled, NCAA Says Eligibility Relief ‘Appropriate’ for Athletes.” www.thecrimson.com. March 13, 2020.) “I think for the spring sports athletes, it’s a good idea. I like the idea of some kind of a make-good there and that’s the way to do it,” Big East commissioner Val Ackerman. (See “NCAA panel backs spring athlete eligibility relief.” www.abcnews.go.com. March 13, 2020.)
At the risk of going against the majority here, I have been reflecting on the fallout and ripple effects of this decision on the sports community and families of ALL individuals affected by the COVID-19 virus this epic year. Several of my friends have children who are graduating this year from high school. These bright and talented young men and women have had to experience what none of us have ever had to do live through. They will not get to finish out their own sports seasons in high school this spring. They will likely not get to go to their Senior Prom or walk across a stage at their high school graduation ceremony. They are being deprived of the opportunity to socialize and spend these last few months of emotional time with their friends with whom they have been in school with for many years. They are anxious and nervous about going to college and leaving their families in the midst of this crisis.
The NCAA’s decision will have serious ramifications for this year’s high school seniors matriculating to college in the 2020-2021 school year to play college sports for the affected sports. I am the first to admit that I never was an athlete in school. But, I have many friends that were and still are involved in the sports sector. Both of my kids are athletes now and work very hard both during their school seasons and during club seasons. Both have had their travel club seasons put on “hold” due to the current crisis. The most important thing I believe I need to do as their mother is to help them remain calm and recognize that there will always be ups and downs in their lives. The unexpected WILL happen. The question is – how do we react to the adverse life moments? Therein lies the opportunity for growth and grit.
The COVID-19 outbreak has sent the global economy reeling. It has shut down schools and businesses. It has affected every single person in this world. Is the fact that college senior athletes have been deprived of the possibility for a championship a seriously unfortunate situation? Of course. But, what are we teaching these young adults as they are about to launch themselves into the real world? That when life throws you a curve ball, you get a chance to do it again? That is not reality. This week I spoke to my good friend and former Miami Heat, Boston Celtic, and University of Connecticut player Ray Allen about his thoughts regarding the NCAA decision to extend eligibility relief to the affected athletes. After careful reflection, Ray said “I think this will create a bottleneck for graduating high school seniors as well as current freshman, sophomores and juniors. There shouldn’t be a do-over because that is not how life works. It is always better for us to find a way to move on and learn to turn the page and be resilient.”
I agree with Ray. What are we teaching these college seniors, especially as they are about to embark into graduate schools or professional careers? Don’t misunderstand me. I have deep compassion for what these young men and women are suffering and the loss they feel for a dream that might have been. But, the truth is, that every one of us will learn this exact lesson at some point in our lives. We are depriving these men and women the chance to step up and prove that they can be resilient and get through this. They can. They are strong and will understand how difficult some moments in life will be.
I hope that those who have the choice, will find the courage to make the hard, but right decision and allow those following in their footsteps the opportunity to create their own college careers.
Rashmi Airan‘s mission is to help organizations create cultures focused on integrity, authenticity, and accountability by connecting these efforts to human performance, behavioral ethics and emotional intelligence. Rashmi is a keynote speaker and consultant specializing in organizational culture, reputational risk, and human performance. Contact Rashmi to see how she can help your organization.